Sunday, 18 March 2012

Research and activism

Activist knowledge exists in a creative tension with other forms of knowledge. Much of the best contemporary social movements research is engaged research – work by activist participants and / or work which is designed to support and develop movement thinking, and CEESA staff and students benefit from this in many ways.

In November CEESA staff and activist postgrads in Sociology organised the first social movements conference in Ireland for well over a decade, with  20 papers spanning everything from Rossport to the Arab Spring, working-class community education to the World Social Forum and SlutWalks to children’s rights.

This March the Council for European Studies’ Social Movements Research Network (co-chaired by CEESA staff) is hosting a joint event with Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society looking at the relationships between the Arab Revolutions, anti-austerity movements in Europe and the Occupy! phenomenon. This event brings together 30 leading researchers on these different movements (including people from Occupy Research, Boston College's Movements / media Research and Action Project, MIT Comparative Media, etc.) to explore this dramatic period in world history.

Early next month CEESA students and staff as well as activist postgrads in Sociology will be taking part in the “Alternative Futures and Popular Protest” conference, the annual social movements conference in these islands (now in its 17th year). This conference is a fundamental space for sharing knowledge between engaged researchers working on social movements and counter-cultural projects of all kinds.

Finally, in May the international social movements journal Interface, based at NUI Maynooth, brings out its 7th issue on the linked topics of the Arab Spring and European anti-austerity movements. At time of writing independent journalist Austin Mackell, his translator Ailya Alwi and US postgrad Derek Ludovici are barred from leaving Egypt and facing trumped-up charges carrying up to 7 years’ imprisonment linked to their attempt to interview an Egyptian labour leader. 

Each year CEESA students design and carry out their own research projects, designed as practitioner theses aimed at supporting and developing their own movements’ practice in a particular area. In doing this they are supported by these broader links and networks of engaged research at what has become not only Ireland’s leading centre of social movement studies but a key node in cutting-edge international research in this area.